The Maldives Criminal Court on Friday 13 March sentenced former President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail on charges of ‘terrorism’, for the detention, while he was still president in 2012, of a criminal court judge who had been accused of corruption, abuse of power and who had refused to obey police summons. In a blatantly politicised trial, which has lasted less than three weeks and been widely condemned in the Maldives and abroad, President Nasheed was repeatedly denied legal representation, denied the right to appeal, his defence witnesses were prevented from taking the stand, and prosecution witnesses were routinely coached by the judges and the police.
Nasheed’s legal team resigned earlier this week, stating that the court had refused them proper time to prepare a defence. The three judge bench that passed down the sentence included two judges who had acted as witnesses for the prosecution.
Standing in court – without lawyers – President Nasheed issued the following, heartfelt, statement:
“Beloved citizens of Maldives, I appeal to all of you today to stay courageous and strong; to confront the dictatorial power of this regime. To change this government and work towards forming a government that would pave the way for the people’s development and prosperity; to not be afraid of being arrested or facing a long sentence; to take all of your lives in your hands and to go out onto the streets in protest. Do not consider either the security of your personal lives or the transitory happiness of your wives, husbands, children, parents and relatives; for the security of all of your children and their children is in jeopardy.
“Why am I calling for such a sacrifice? Know this for sure: it is not for my own well being . I am not staying in jail, a captive, because I have no way out. I could easily secure my freedom and happiness by agreeing to stop the work I am doing, and falling at President Yameen’s feet. I could choose to live in riches, in comfort, and in joy. But if I choose that path, Maldivians will reach a tragic end. Maldivians will be deprived of what they rightfully deserve: freedom, dignity and democracy. They will never be allowed to stand tall. Forever, they will be forced to cower before this dictatorial regime.
“I accepted the results of the 2013 presidential election in good faith. I believed President Abdulla Yameen’s government would uphold the noble principles of Islam. I accepted the results in the hope that this would be a government that would respect democratic norms.
“But consider how things have transpired in the year and a half since the election. The Maldivian judiciary is full of corruption and disgrace. Judges are routinely accepting the vile money of bribery. These judges have no fear of the day of judgment, and no shame in this world. The consequence of their actions is injustice to the public, and the thwarting of this country’s development.
“But in this time of profound injustice, I harbour no hatred. And to those who seek to destroy me, I say: I wish upon you good grace and blessings. I wish for good blessings upon us all, in this world and the next.”
President Nasheed is the Maldives’ first democratically-elected president. He was elected into office in 2008, bringing to an end the 30-year dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.In February 2012, President Nasheed was ousted in a coup, after mutinying police and army personnel overrun the institutions of state.In the first round of presidential elections in 2013, President Nasheed received 45% of the vote to Yameen’s 25%. But the Supreme Court constantly meddled in the election – repeatedly annulling, cancelling and postponing the ballot in order to favour the candidacy of Yameen, Gayoom’s half-brother, who went on to assume the presidency.On January 24 2015, Gasim Ibrahim, who polled third in the first round of the 2013 elections with 24% of the vote, and his party the JP, quit Yameen’s coalition government and sided with President Nasheed and his party, the MDP.
In quitting the governing coalition, Gasim cited President Yameen’s continued attempts to undermine the rule of law and institutions of democracy, including the sacking and harassment of members of the Elections Commission.
On March 8 2015, the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party quit President Yameen’s ruling coalition because of the President’s increasingly authoritarian actions.
Of the four political parties that made up the ruling coalition, only Yameen’s PPM and the small Maldivian Development Alliance remain.
On February 10 2015, Yameen’s Defense Minister, Colonel (Ret.) Mohamed Nazim, was arrested following a power struggle within government. He has been taken to Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre and faces charges of treason.